Now, about that shared future…?

Christopher Lydon is doing an open source radio special on Northern Ireland. Specifically it was inspired by going to see Maire Jones’ one man play “A Night in November”, which is currently on tour in the US. The focus is sectarianism. This report of an eight year study of the ‘two Ardoynes’ by Pete Shirlow makes fascinating background reading.One commenter on OSR, Alib, cut and pasted this rough summary of some of the headline findings:

“The findings above would seem to suggest that fear of being attacked by the ‘other’ community is central in determining low levels of cross-community contact. However, a subjective reading of such information masks a series of relationships complicated by age, gender and intra-community threat. The interviews conducted after surveying produced a series of complex cultural and demographic positions.

Pensioners are those least likely to perceive the ‘other’ community as a menacing spatial formation.

Secondly, a small group of non-pensioners, who constituted 18% of interviewees, are nonsectarian, and like many pensioners do not believe that the ‘other’ community should be represented as a homogenous cabal intent upon harming them and their community.

Thirdly, 62% of interviewees were found to be tenaciously influenced by a highly subjective ethno-sectarian discourse.

Virtually all of the respondents of pensionable age within the Upper Ardoyne community, who are able bodied, use facilities within Ardoyne. Interviews among this group disclose that the majority are not afraid to enter ‘alien’ territory for four main reasons.

Social relationships, that existed prior to the contemporary conflict, have tended to endure and older people visit Ardoyne in order to maintain such friendships. Although, pensioners conceded that their communities had been victimised by sectarian violence it was also contended that their community had also been involved in transgressive sectarian behaviour. A fourth issue which emerged was that of religious conviction and a belief that it is immoral to judge whole communities as abnormal and inauspicious.

It is apparent that lived social histories, within which there has been an extensive form of cross-community linkage, are capable of diluting the rationale of sectarian sentiment, and as a result fear of the ‘other’ community is tempered by more experienced forms of cultural understanding.

Stronger and more sectarian attitudes were located among those, who comprised 86% of all respondents, aged between 18 and 55. No one within this group undertook, by choice, any form of inter-community linkage or visit to areas dominated by the ‘other’ religious group. Eighty two percent of respondents, within this group, stated that their failure to engage in cross-community activities was due to fear of attack by the ‘other’ community.

There were no observable differences in attitude that could be related to gender. For this group the experience of residential segregation was channelled through a framework of exclusive and sectarian representations and ideological ‘tradition’. Sectarianism is viewed not as a repressive relationship but as an articulatory process, which enshrines spatial segregation.

It would seem that there is something of a continuously (if temporal) reinforcing feedback loop between the segregated conditions people live in that the political ideology they find most compelling.

To illustrate this generational disjuncture, there are two verbatim quotes worth adding:

As noted by one elderly Protestant respondent:

I used to live down there (Ardoyne). My aul (old) friends are down there still. Me and the missus (wife) go down every night for a chat and sometimes even for a wee party. We all get on grand (well). They come up to us and we have the best of craic (fun). We shop down there as well. You go down, do a bit of shopping and meet your mates.

And then:

As noted by a pensioner from Ardoyne:

Look, I grew up with Protestants here in Ardoyne. I saw the Provies (IRA) bullying those people out. Now they say they didn’t do that. But I saw the bullies at it. There were (Protestant) families like the Agnews and Cavendishes who lived here. They were decent people. When my father died they were the ones who helped my mother the most. There wasn’t a bad bone in their bodies.
You get young ones now going on about Huns and Jaffa’s (derogatory names for Protestants). How do they know what they are like they have never met any (Protestants).

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  • John East Belfast

    What possible contribution, other than reinforcing the Protestant Bigoted stereotype versus the happy go lucky inclusive Irish Catholic, is this awful Maire Jones play making while it is still being dragged around the globe.

    Havent we all – including NI Soccer – long since moved on since those particularly nasty times in the early nineties.

    For the same reason I would be against a play that portrayed the brutal murder and inhuman treatment of the two corporals in West Belfast in the late eighties. How would nationalists feel about a play that portrayed West Belfast as a hatefilled mob broad brushing an entire community today ?

    Some of us are trying to make this place a better place to live and visit and an attractive centre for investment.

    It is about time this play was put to rest.

    I didnt like it when I first saw it 10 plus years ago and I totally resent it now

  • DK

    John – it wouldn’t sell the other way round. Except maybe in some bits of Northern Ireland.

    Imagine – a Catholic comes to give up on supporting the Republic and supports Northern Ireland as they beat England 1-0. Hmmm, actually that sounds like a good sequel.

  • Mick Fealty

    Picked up this from Paul Arthur’s book Special Relationships, when he argued that “not only does Northern Ireland present an ideal laboratory for the study of myth making but it highlights the deficiencies of a politically moribund society”.

    He then goes on to quote from the literary critic Lionel Trilling who warned that unless ‘we insist that politics is imagination and mind, we will learn that imagination and mind are politics, and of a kind that we will not like”.

    The political vacuum since 1969, he suggests, has been filled with some ‘dubious imaginative nostrums’.

  • tony

    “I didnt like it when I first saw it 10 plus years ago and I totally resent it now2

    Thats one the problem with our past, its difficult for communities to face up to their naked sectarianism.

  • real ists


    ‘A night in november’ is an honest reflection of the terrible sectarianism and hatred that manifested itself through sport.

    Several of those playing during the game in 1993 have mentioned it in their books.

    Paul McGrath

    “This bloke was giving Niall Quinn stick on the steps of the coach as we got ready to leave Windsor Park.He was telling Niall to “fuck off back to Dublin, you Fenian bastard”.Niall,cool as a cucumber, just turned to him and said “I’ll send you a postcard from America , pal.”

    Andy Townsend

    At one point prior to the start of the game,I was approached by a supporter.He said “Hey Townsend,you Fenian bastard,i hope your mother dies if cancer”.

    Have things really changed at Windsor Park?

    ‘No Surrender’ chants have replaced the more blatant singing of openly sectarian songs.

    The term ‘Ulster’ within a six county context is being used in several songs.

    They sing the dambusters tune and continue to plat gstq before matches under the flag of the old ‘government’ of n.i flag.

    And people wonder why the vast majority of the nationalist population in the North support Steve Staunton’s Ireland team rather than the Windsor ‘international’ team !!!

    The only myth lies with ‘some’ of the north’s written & broadcasting media trying to give the impression of a team supported by all the people.

    If only the unionist media could accept the reality.

  • Avigdor Vaile

    The well-known Ulster Protestant aversion to having a mirror held up to the Protestant community is much in evidence in these comments.
    Yet, nothing short of a full and complete facing up to the guilt they bear for their crimes against the Catholic community will help them achieve the redemption they desperately need.
    Note, please, that at no time in the last thirty years have such Protestant luminaries as Robin Eames borne witness to the Lord Jesus Christ by calling on their people to repent. On the contrary, Eames spent those years perfecting his media technique and achieving worldly titles and honours. Today he is being hailed—but for what?

    This is the kind of truth Protestants in Northern Ireland must face. “A Night In November” goes some way towards setting the record straight. My only problem with “A Night In November” is that it is not available on DVD. It should be disseminated i throughout the world.

  • mnob

    AV – Nobody in NI likes having a mirror put up to them.

    Especially those quick to demonise an entire community.

  • idunnomeself

    Avigdor Vaile

    Are you kidding? Robin Eames is an Anglican clergyman. He calls on people to repent everytime he leads a church service.

    Are you being wilfully ignorant or just ignorant?

  • Avigdor Vaile

    What is required from Christian clergymen is not simply an undifferentiated call to repent but a
    willingness to display Christian courage and NAME precisely those sins for which repentance is required. The “ritual” call to repent is only the beginning. I have never heard Robin Eames call on his community to repent the injustices they perpetrated on Catholics. Correct me if I am mistaken.

    Interestingly, the writer of the previous comment appears to believe the ritual call is the beginning and the end of the Christian reaction to evil. The attitude he embodies in his comment, I would contend, explains precisely why we are where we are. There needs to be naming of crimes committed and forgiveness asked of the vistims.

    The Catholic community has been constantly bombarded by its priests with condemnation of paramilitary violence. I have my own criticisms of the Catholic Church in NI but I shall always admire those priests who risked (and got) walkouts by sections of their congregations. That core Christian value—COURAGE—was there in abundance. When did Robin Eames ever risk a walkout?

    As for demonising an entire community, do show me please when the Protestants of Northern Ireland ever tried to dissociate themselves from the bigotry, injustice and discrimination for which they are today known (and rightfully excoriated) throughout the world.) mnob should note that to demonise an entire community can sometimes be the only way left to call to repentance a community that has been criminally betrayed by its religious and political leaders.

  • John East Belfast


    “The Catholic community has been constantly bombarded by its priests with condemnation of paramilitary violence”

    Well it didnt appear to have worked because in the privacy of an election booth the majority of the voting ‘catholic community’ appear to have endorsed that unrepentant paramilitary organisation.

    Meanwhile in the ‘protestant community’ paramilitary violence has been DECISIVELY rejected at the ballot box.

    I think you need a reality check.

  • Henry94


    Almost the entire weight of the Church was behind the SDLP. In every school and church the anti-republcan message was delivered consistently.

    It was peoples experience, judgement and suuport for the peace process that made them vote Sinn Fein.

    Meanwhile in the ‘protestant community’ paramilitary violence has been DECISIVELY rejected at the ballot box.

    You can’t honestly compare the two. No unionist party was ever as unambigious against paramilitary violence as say the SDLP.

    And you community had the support of state violence at all times.

  • Democratic

    “As for demonising an entire community, do show me please when the Protestants of Northern Ireland ever tried to dissociate themselves from the unpleasant, injustice and discrimination for which they are today known (and rightfully excoriated) throughout the world.”

    It’s been a while now since I’ve heard the old
    “everyone in the world hates you Ulster prods!” line – always good for a laugh though!
    Here you go though if you have never heard it before from an actual Ulster Prod – I wish to fully disassociate myself from any “unpleasant, injustice and discrimination for which we are today known” – there you go – can’t say you never heard before now.